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Gambia Opposition Urges ‘Massive’ Vote Against President

A leading opposition member is calling on Gambians to “massively vote out” President Yahya Jammeh in the November 24 general elections.

Halifa Sallah, secretary-general of the People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), said, “The response of the people should be overwhelmingly voting him out of office and thus assert the sovereignty of the people.”

Gambia President Yahya Jammeh (file photo)
Gambia President Yahya Jammeh (file photo)

He said it’s the president against the people, "and we believe the people constitute the majority. What we need is to appeal to the people to make their voices heard and ensure their power to have a say in how their country is governed.”

But Mr. Jammeh sees things differently.

State media quoted him as saying, “Elections will not make me to lose power nor will military coups make me lose [my] grip on power. It is only the Almighty Allah who made it possible for me to come to power in 1994 in a bloodless coup [and who can remove me].”

But, several opposition groups expressed concern about Mr. Jammeh’s statement, saying it undermines the country’s young democracy.

Opposition leader Sallah echoed the sentiments. He added that Mr. Jammeh often glorifies the military overthrow that ushered him into power.

“There is always a reminiscence of what happened that [Mr. Jammeh] came to power by the barrel of the gun,” said Sallah. “They always want people to remember the coup and that’s why he celebrates July 22, which will be celebrated in the next few days.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Jammeh vowed to win the November presidential election, which he said would be free, fair and transparent.

Some analysts say opposition parties are too weak to pose any significant challenge in this year’s vote. Sallah disagrees, saying an opposition alliance could defeat the president.

“Our [PDOIS] position is that we need an alliance which will definitely attract the vast majority of people who did not vote in the 2006 elections because over 270, 000 people abstained from voting,” he said.” That constituted more voters than those who voted for President Jammeh who had about 260,000.”